Lynmouth Foreland Lighthouse is positioned in Devon, on the northern-most tip of the Exmoor National Park, just east of the towns of Lynton and Lynmouth. The lighthouse is nestled on a steep hillside and—being north facing—is famed for not receiving much sunlight.

However, what it lacks in Vitamin D potential it makes up for with wildlife aplenty; Exmoor ponies are often found having a scratch on the gate posts and red deer casually make an appearance during the twilight hours, along with many visiting game birds and birds of prey.

Trinity House completed construction of the lighthouse in 1900; the tower is positioned lower down the cliff than the accommodation making this one of the more unusual looking buildings and one of the few lighthouses that has more steps going down than up. The accommodation is now owned by the National Trust and rented out as a holiday let.

The first order catadioptric rotating lens has provided the navigation light throughout the station’s history, including electrification in 1975 and departure of the lighthouse keepers following station automation in 1994.

The flash character of four white flashes every 15 seconds has remained unchanged over this lifetime meaning the rotating optic has spun around floating on its mercury bath in excess of 250 million times!

With the aid to navigation equipment being over 25 years old, the station was in need of a modernisation project to ensure the station could continue to provide a reliable service for the next 20 years and more.

The new system design work and procurement of materials were completed in 2020. Unfortunately, due to lockdown, the listed building consent took much longer than usual—16 weeks in total—with some conditions placed upon the project including a level three historical building survey.

Early engagement between Project Manager Mike Yaxley and the National Trust enabled the accommodation to be block booked for use throughout the installation period, securing the idyllically-located property.

The road to the lighthouse is narrow, steep and over a mile long with multiple hairpin turns and daunting sheer drops. Walking the access road can be considered more than a brisk walk which is why for many years the keepers kept a barely roadworthy car at the lighthouse for driving up and down this private road.

Today a portion of the road and a section of cliff directly behind the lighthouse forms part of the South West Coast Path, with keen walkers often found passing through. The tight bends and narrow access of this road prohibited the traditional mobilisation approach of simply delivering tools and equipment by van to a land-based lighthouse.

In October 2021, all the equipment and tools required by the project were transported to Swansea, loaded on to THV Galatea, sailed to the Devon coastline and flown to station using the helicopter.

All underslung loads were carefully landed into the tight squeeze of the courtyard area and the Field Operations team on site managed the manoeuvring of these loads to ensure enough space was available for the next incoming load. Once all loads were safely received, two temporary storage sheds were erected to house the majority of the tools and equipment.

Following the mobilisation to site, Field Operations personnel drained down the mercury and carefully dismantled the optic into wooden crates, positioned outside on a scaffold platform erected to provide additional space for heli-ops.

The dismantling of the optic was overseen and captured within a photographic record by a heritage consultant as part of listed building consent conditions.

Originally all installation works were to be completed by Field Operations personnel; however—due to issues outside of the projects control—the bulk of the installation was carried out by our approved installation contractors.

This included the installation of the new LED lanterns, control equipment, batteries, wiring and a new lantern access platform based on an evolution of the Portland Bill Lighthouse platform design.

The inside of the lighthouse had some wall repairs carried out and was fully repainted just in time for the Christmas break. Commissioning was completed in January 2022, followed by some snagging works and a soak test period.

The demobilisation was carried out using the helicopter and THV Galatea in February and the accommodation handed back to the National Trust with one week to spare before the next holiday booking.

The optic was flown off and returned to Swansea stores awaiting a new home. Local interest was sought and a proposal was submitted by the Lynmouth Sailing Club, to display the optic (on loan from Trinity House) on Lynmouth seafront.

A successful viewing trial of the new LED navigation light was also completed in February marking another successful lighthouse upgrade project.

This article originally appeared in the autumn 2022 edition of Flash.

Helicopter operations Helicopter operations Dismantling the optic